This article was contributed by Drinkaware

Drinkaware works to reduce alcohol misuse and harm in the UK. The charity provides people with evidence-based information about alcohol and work with the medical community, third sector organisations, government and the drinks industry to achieve its goals.

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Children, alcohol and the law: a parent’s guide

Alcohol and the law

Photo: Mike Kniec 

What’s the law on children and drinking alcohol? Read our quick tips from Anna Bullock of Drinkaware to find out

Alcohol has a magnetic attraction for young people. Almost every parent of teenagers knows someone who's had a party go disastrously wrong because someone smuggled in bottles of vodka, or some child who's had to go to hospital. But what's the legal position? Should you ever give children a glass of wine with dinner? How old do they have to be before you take them into a pub? Here are the basic points to remember:

  • It is illegal to give alcohol to children under five. 
  • It is illegal for young people under the age of 18 to:
    • Buy or try to buy alcohol
    • Have someone older buy alcohol on their behalf
    • Drink alcohol in licensed premises.
  • It’s also illegal to sell alcohol to someone who is under 18. 

Young people between the ages of 16 and 18 can drink (but not buy) wine, beer or cider with a meal, IF they are accompanied by an adult. 

‘Young people under the age of 18 can be stopped and even fined or arrested by the police for drinking in public’

Children under the age of 16 may be able to go into a pub in the company of an adult, but this is not always the case and will depend on specifics of the premises and licensing. 

Young people under the age of 18 can be stopped and even fined or arrested by the police for drinking in public

Northern Ireland: the laws on young people and alcohol are slightly different. People under the age of 18 are allowed to go into pubs that serve food, but are not allowed to drink alcohol even if it’s been purchased by an adult.

Further reading

Alcohol and children: official goverment information for England and Wales

Alcohol and children: official government information for Scotland

Acohol and children: offical government information for Northern Ireland

The advice published on Parent Info is provided by independent experts in their field and not necessarily the views of Parent Zone or NCA-CEOP.

Updated: ​May 2018

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